Last Tuesday all the Cinemacon journos went apeshit after seeing ten minutes of footage from Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing (Paramount, 12.22), myself especially. Yes, it’s “comedic” but a long way from lighthearted. For all the humor and cleverness and first-rate CG it feels kind of Twilight Zone-y…a kind of Rod Serling tale that will have an uh-oh finale or more likely an uh-oh feeling all through it.
Last Tuesday I wrote that the undercurrent felt a teeny bit spooky, like a futuristic social melodrama in the vein of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
In its matter-of-fact portrait of middle-class Americans willing to shrink themselves down to the size of a pinkie finger in order to reap economic advantages, Downsizing doesn’t appear to be the sort of film that will instill euphoric feelings among Average Joes. It struck me as a reimagining of mass man as mass mice — a portrait of little people buying into a scheme that’s intended to make their lives better but in fact only makes them…smaller. A bit like Trump voters suddenly realizing that their lot isn’t going to improve and may even get worse.
A day after the Downsizing presentation I was chatting with a bespectacled heavy-set female who works, she said, for an Arizona exhibitor (or some exhibition-related business) in some executive capacity. She struck me as a conservative, perhaps one who processes things in simplistic “like/no like” terms, definitely not a Susan Sontag brainiac.
I told her that I thought Downsizing was brilliant and asked what she thought of it. Her response: “I don’t know what I think of it.”
HE translation: “No offense but I don’t want to spill my mixed feelings with some Los Angeles journalist I’ve just met. I didn’t like the chilly feeling underneath it. It didn’t make me feel good. My heart wasn’t warmed by the idea of working people shrinking themselves down so they can live a more lavish lifestyle. I have to work really hard at my job and watch my spending and build up my IRA, and I didn’t appreciate the notion that I’m just a little struggling hamster on a spinning wheel.”
Again — my initial reaction to the footage.